Trigana Air Service Flight 267 (IL267/TGN267) was a scheduled 45-minute passenger flight by Indonesian domestic airline Trigana Air Service from Sentani to Oksibil in the eastern Indonesian province of Papua. On 16 August 2015, the aircraft crashed about 30 minutes after takeoff, killing all 49 passengers and five crew members. The wreckage was found by villagers in the Bintang highlands region of Oksibil.
With 54 deaths, it is the deadliest accident involving the ATR 42, surpassing the 46 lives lost in the 2008 crash of Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518 in Venezuela. It is also the third deadliest in eight months in Indonesia, after Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 and an Indonesian Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules crash. This is the airline's deadliest accident in its 25-year history.
The Trigana Air Service flight took off from Sentani Airport in Jayapura at 14:22 WIT (UTC+9, 05:22 UTC) and was scheduled to land in Oksibil at about 15:16. Oksibil is a remote town near the country's border with Papua New Guinea. Oksibil Airport does not have an instrument landing system to guide aircraft in to land because it is located close to a mountain.
Contact was lost with the aircraft at about 14:55. There was no indication that a distress call was made by the crew. The crew had been expected to make contact with ground staff at Oksibil Airport at around 15:00; attempts by those at the airport to contact the aircraft were unsuccessful. At the time of the incident, the aircraft was on the final section of its scheduled route.
Conflicting statements regarding the weather conditions were released. Stormy weather was initially cited as a possible cause of the crash, however it was later confirmed that the weather was good. Minister of Transportation Ignasius Jonan stated that bad weather was not the cause of the crash. Data from local Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics acknowledged that the weather at the time of the crash was sunny. The crew of another aircraft landing prior to the crash also reported conditions at the time as "good".
Several pilots stated that flying was difficult in the region. A pilot, Captain Andhy Gunawan, stated that the terrain in Papua was very dangerous and warned that the weather conditions in the area are also dangerous, as visibility could be limited. The Ministry of Transportation acknowledged that Indonesia's air navigation system equipment was very outdated and dated back to the 1950s, especially in remote areas such as Papua. Most airports in Papua do not have modern navigation aids. Without this equipment, the airports and flight crew must conduct operations under instrument flight rules and rely on visual flight rules. This however could turn out to be dangerous as Papua's weather was "unforgiving and unpredictable" with most airports not receiving reports about weather condition in the area.
At 15:30, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) deployed a search aircraft to find the missing ATR 42. The search was suspended due to foggy weather and was resumed, with several additional search aircraft augmented by a search team on foot, on 17 August. Local residents contacted police and reported that they saw the aircraft crash into the Tangok Mountain in the Okbape district of Pegunungan Bintang Municipality. Airborne searchers spotted the wreckage about 12 km (7 miles) from Oksibil. The Indonesia Transportation Ministry confirmed that the wreckage was located at an elevation of 8,300 feet (2,530 m). All 54 passengers and crew were found to have died. The terrain itself has never been explored by humans, according to BASARNAS officials.
BASARNAS sent 250 personnel to Oksibil in response to the crash. Due to the thin air at this high altitude rescuers were unable to use air transport to recover victims or wreckage, necessitating an overland recovery. The terrain itself is described as "very steep". It took around three days to reach the wreckage on foot, or six hours by vehicle. Indonesian National Police sent three Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) teams into the area to identify the victims of the crash. The bodies will be transported to a military hospital in Jayapura. However, bad weather and low visibility hamper the search and rescue effort. Weather systems around the wreckage were "unpredictable", according to BASARNAS. The identification of the victims will use DNA, tooth samples and forensic DNA analysis from surviving family members. The families have sent post-mortem and ante-mortem data to the police.
By 18 August 2015 all of the dead had been found, but bad weather prevented the recovery of victims' bodies. Some victims' bodies were intact and exhibited burn injuries, others were mutilated and difficult to be identified. Photos taken from the crash site reveal that the aircraft had been heavily fragmented into smaller pieces by the force of the impact with no chance of survival. By nightfall on 19 August seventeen bodies had been carried out from the crash site. Initial reports that both flight recorders had been found in good condition were later contradicted, as authorities revealed on 19 August that the flight data recorder (FDR) was still missing. The Flight Data Recorder was eventually found on the 20 August and shown to media.
The ATR 42 aircraft was registered PK-YRN, it was manufactured in 1988 and originally operated in the United States before being transferred to Trigana Air in 2005. The airline operated five more of the same aircraft type and three aircraft of the larger ATR 72 variant at the time of the crash.
Aircraft operated by Trigana Air have been involved in 14 serious accidents, 10 of which resulted in hull loss. Most of the airlines under the supervision of Indonesian authorities, including Trigana Air, have been on the European Union blacklist of banned carriers since 2007.
The aircraft was carrying 49 passengers and 5 crew members. The passenger manifest released by Trigana Air indicated all on board were of Indonesian nationality. There were 44 adults, 3 children and 2 infants on board (excluding crews) There were two flight crew members: the captain; Hasannudin, had joined Trigana in 2000 with 25.287 hours of total flying experience and 7.340 hours on type. The first officer, Ariadin, had joined Trigana in 2008 with a total of 3.818 hours flying experience and 2.640 total on type. Both of them had listed by Trigana as very experienced.
Among the passengers were four postal servicemen heading to Oksibil to distribute the Indonesia Sejahtera card, a programme for the poor that President Joko Widodo developed and promoted while campaigning for the 2014 Indonesia Presidential Election. They were reportedly carrying around 6.5 billion rupiah ($US470,000). Three local government officials and two members of the Regional Representatives Council were also on board to attend celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Indonesia's independence in Oksibil.
The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC or KNKT) has opened an investigation to the crash. In line with international regulations, French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA) is participating as the aircraft was built in France, sending three investigators. Aircraft manufacturer ATR is also assisting and sent four technical advisers.
It has been found that the flight manifest released by Trigana was wrong and came from another Trigana flight. As the result, the Chairman of Sentani Airport was fired by the Transportation Ministry. Sixteen workers were also investigated by the police because of their involvement. Two of Trigana's staff remained in custody. Ignasius Jonan, Indonesian Minister of Transportation, criticized the airport staff saying the situation was a "big mess" and needed to be cleaned up.
The aircraft crashed one day before Indonesia celebrated its 70th anniversary, Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged all Indonesians to pray, and held a minute of silence in order to remember the victims. Crisis centres were set up in Sentani and Jakarta. BASARNAS also set up three crisis centres in Jayapura. Minister of Transportation Ignasius Jonan commented that Trigana Air Service "must treat the affected families as well as possible". Shortly after the crash, flowers and condolence banners were displayed in front of Trigana Air Service's head office. The condolences came from various airlines, including Sriwijaya Air, Aviastar and head staff of INACA.
Social Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa will visit Papua and the relatives of the victims to inspect the bodies repatriation progress. Trigana Air Service will also pay the insurance claims as they claimed that they were responsible for the crash with the total of Rp.1,25 billion for each person killed in the crash. Jasa Raharja will also pay the compensation of Rp. 100 million, adding the total to Rp. 1,35 billion. The process will take about 3–4 weeks, as the insurance team came from the UK and needed much more identification.
Indonesia's People's Representative Council urged the government to upgrade the air navigation system in every airports in Indonesia. The Indonesian government state that they will work with AirNav Indonesia to upgrade the infrastructure in Papua. The plan was one of Indonesia's Aviation Plan to decrease the number of flight crashes. There are twelve small airports, which will be upgraded by the government. Among them were Sumenep Airport, Labuan Bajo Airport and Oksibil Airport. The first phase is the upgradation of the information system from Aeronautical Flight Information Services (AFIS) to Area Aerodome Control (ADC) tower. Weather conditions around the area will be also frequently updated by the local weather station. The safety procedures upgradation process will take around 6 months, as the ADC towers will take about 1 full year. Some runway in those airports will be also upgraded.
Andrew Herdman, head of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said:
More resources are needed but of course governments face many demands on their resources. Further investment is needed in infrastructure. Many of the airports in Indonesia are dealing with congestion well beyond their design capacity. Some of the smaller airports, and this most recent tragedy involved short haul service between two remote airports in inhospitable terrain in Papua -- airports in that terrain need upgrading of navigation aids and other operational enhancements.
The crash brought the spotlight back on Indonesian aviation safety. Arnold Barnet, a statistician focusing on aviation safety at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the New York Times in December 2014 that the death rate in Indonesian airline crashes over the previous ten years was one in every million passenger-boardings, compared to one death for every 25 million passengers for airlines in the United States. According to CNN, International Air Transport Association (IATA) CEO Tony Tyler said in March 2015 that Indonesia had seen at least one major crash resulting in the loss of an aircraft every year since 2010; and that Indonesia was rated "below the global average" by the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Aviation expert Mary Schiavo opined that Trigana's prior crashes suggest that better training of its pilots is needed, as controlled flight into terrain was a factor in most of the airline's fatal aircraft crashes.